What Are Vitamin C Supplements Good For? Benefits For Skin & More*
As an essential micronutrient with myriad physiological functions, vitamin C can do some pretty incredible things for the body.* Yes, that includes strengthening your immune system—but also much more.*
Here, learn about the science-backed benefits of this powerhouse nutrient.
Vitamin C supports your immune system.
"Vitamin C plays a large role in supporting immune function,"* notes Joanna Foley, R.D., CLT, founder of a private holistic health coaching practice. On a cellular level, vitamin C helps immune cells do their complex jobs properly to neutralize pathogens, she says.*
The antioxidative properties of vitamin C protect the immune system, too.* Acute oxidative stress is normal and useful for immune function, but prolonged oxidative stress is not normal, nor good for overall health.
Getting enough vitamin C, along with other antioxidants, is key to maintaining antioxidant vs. oxidant balance and a strong and resilient immune system.*
It helps combat oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress happens when your body produces free radicals, and it's a normal outcome of our immune cells (and many other cellular processes throughout the body) doing their hard work to protect us.
For optimal skin benefits, Barr suggests both supplementing with vitamin C and applying it topically—a tandem approach.* This ensures that there is enough vitamin C biologically available and active in and on the skin.*
"Including vitamin C in your morning routine will help buffer against environmental exposures during the day,"* she notes. "[Applying] it at night will help support skin rejuvenation in the evening."*
Vitamin C promotes your natural collagen production.
To support healthy skin aging, be sure to get enough vitamin C.* "Vitamin C is a key cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, [which help] give your skin that plump and youthful appearance,"* says Barr. The nutrient also protects the collagen you already have by working against collagen-degrading enzymes8.*
It promotes healthy cognitive function.
"Free radicals can cause wear and tear to all parts of the body, including the brain and mind," explains Foley. However, as an antioxidant, vitamin C can help combat oxidative stress to support cognitive functions.*
Vitamin C helps support healthy blood pressure.
Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, which means it dilates, or opens, blood vessels, which is critical for their optimal function and helps lower blood pressure.*
But wait—there's more. Vitamin C has diuretic properties, "causing the kidneys to remove more sodium and water from the body,"* says Foley. This "helps relax blood vessel walls and lower blood pressure."*
It can also maintain or restore flexibility in artery cell walls, which decreases plaque formation and improves blood flow, she adds.*
Use caution if you already have low blood pressure, though. Due to the potential hypotensive effects of vitamin C, it's best to check with your doctor first before starting supplementation.
It enhances iron absorption.
It's also influenced by your intake of vitamin C, which plays a supportive role in iron absorption.* According to Shapiro, it turns non-heme iron—which is found in plants—into a more absorbable form.* (Vitamin C does this by supporting the solubility of iron in the small intestine).* This is important because non-heme iron (found in plant sources) isn't as bioavailable as heme iron from animal sources.
What else should you know.
Overall, taking vitamin C supplements or a multi-ingredient supplement with vitamin C is considered safe for most individuals. People with a history of kidney stone concerns should take caution, as too much vitamin C can potentially increase oxalates and worsen or increase kidney stone issues14 (i.e., too much means high-dose vitamin C above the tolerated upper limit of 2,000 milligrams).
As always, individuals with key health concerns should check with their healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
Additionally, be mindful of how you store your vitamin C supplement. "Vitamin C is photolabile, which means it needs to be stored in a darker-colored bottle and out of direct sunlight," says Barr. This will ensure that you "reap the benefits and maintain the potency of your product."
The bottom line.
There's a reason vitamin C gets so much praise for its plethora of health benefits: It really is a do-it-all vitamin, supporting whole-body antioxidant actions, plus immune, skin, cognitive, and cardiovascular health.*
Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle journalist based in Beacon, New York. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition from Texas Woman's University and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from SUNY Oneonta. Kirsten specializes in nutrition, fitness, food, and DIY; her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including eHow, SparkPeople, and international editions of Cosmopolitan. She also creates recipes for food product packaging.